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John Lamb, Published November 17 2010

Paula Poundstone's long road to Fargo

If you go

It’s been a long and winding road that Paula Poundstone has taken to get to Fargo. So what’s another six months?

The 50-year-old comedian makes her area debut at the Fargo Theatre on Saturday night, a show that was rescheduled from this past summer after the venue bumped her to run “Iron Man 2” for weeks uninterrupted.

Poundstone made a name for herself in the late 1980s with a goofy demeanor and look at life. Her star continued to rise through the next decade.

Her career took a turn in 2001 after she was arrested on a charge of committing a lewd act on an unidentified girl and endangering two other girls and two boys. Details were sketchy, but a prosecutor suggested the charges stemmed from an incident in which she drove drunk with her adopted children. She pleaded “no contest” to felony child endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of inflicting injury on a child. The lewd conduct charges were dropped.

In the mid-2000s, she re-emerged through Public Radio shows like “Wait! Wait! ... Don’t Tell Me” and “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Poundstone talked about radio, her style, her sex life (or lack of) and her legal past.

Have you ever been bumped by an inanimate object like a movie before?

No! That was a first. But, you know what? I so enjoyed “Iron Man.” I was nervous about “Iron Man 2” though. They have a tendency to screw things up in the sequel. I would say that they returned to that tendency in “Iron Man 2.” I didn’t think it was very good at all. But, if I was going to get bumped by anything, I didn’t mind it so much being “Iron Man.”

Will you be using your experience being bumped for “Iron Man 2” in your material in Fargo?

Oh, no doubt. I don’t see how I can avoid it.

Is radio the best place for someone with your particular fashion sense?

No. It’s being wasted. … My dress is definitely meant for television and not radio.

A couple of years ago, pop musician Avril Lavigne started young girls wearing ties. Did you feel like you influenced young women wearing ties?

Gee, I had no idea … I grabbed a tie at a store in Beverly Hills … . That was the first tie I purchased, and I wore it a lot because I thought it was great … . Since then, many audience members have given me ties and friends have given me ties … . It’s like anything else. If you have a picture of a cat and people come over, when your birthday rolls around they think, ‘Oh, she loves cats,’ so you get more pictures of cats. I will say it’s a quick fashion solution. It puts a splash of color on an otherwise bland shirt. And I don’t know why men have complained about it for so many years, because it’s pretty easy to get up and get dressed.

I don’t tie any of my ties, by the way, because I don’t know how. I often have somebody in the front row, or the bellman. I’ve had a variety of influential men tie my ties and then I just slip them on and off my neck for many years to come until I spill something on it.

You have described yourself as asexual and that you don’t date. Is that still the case?

I work and I have three kids and 13 cats and a German shepherd-mix dog and a lop-eared bunny and a bearded dragon lizard and I cannot even begin to keep up. And the idea, as I’ve said before, that I would go into my bedroom at night, and there would be someone in there with whom I’d have to have an activity, it’s upsetting to me. So I consider myself the luckiest woman in the world that apparently I don’t have an ounce of sex drive.

Do you ever feel that you’re missing out on comic material by not having those relationships?

Until I was about 40 I felt terrible that I have zero interest in sex. I really thought it meant there was something terribly wrong with me. I can’t remember what day I thought, “This is really working out well.”

A lot of people probably associate you with the criminal charges in 2001, not your work. How has that incident affected your outlook or actual jokes?

I did material based on my experiences for a while. But my act is largely biographical and has always been that way … . It’s probably thinned my crowds. Ironically, I think the people who come to see me are more forceful than others. They are people that really like to see me. It was 10 years ago; there are people that never even heard of that. The truth is I was guilty to what I plead to and nothing more … I endangered the life of my children and others by driving drunk, and I have no one to blame but myself.

You’re now clean and sober?

Yes, I am.

You’re very active with friends of library groups. (The Friends of Fargo Public Library will staff Poundstone’s merchandise table at the show.)

It’s kind of a no-brainer when it comes to an organization to support. It’s not highly controversial. I have yet to cross a picket line. There are no signs that say, “Keep us ignorant. Close our libraries.” But libraries often are one of the first things up on the chopping block during rough budgetary times, which is ironic, because they truly are the best deal in town.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533